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Making ‘green’ a high priority in Manteca

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POSTED June 25, 2009 2:22 a.m.
I’m not normally a big fan of creating more commissions or another layer of government but it would seem Manteca would be well-served if the City Council appointed a Green Commission.

Simply put, the panel would be charged with advocating and recommending green strategies to save green as well as making green standards the focus would be on creating and enforcing city policies aimed at long-term cost reductions and energy savings with the proviso they have to pencil out over the duration.

Manteca is headed in the right direction with the separated bikeway system that actually goes places people want to access as well as with its alternative energy initiative that is now underway. Manteca also scores points with shallow wells at a number of municipal parks for irrigation that taps undrinkable shallow water tables and reduces the need for expensive treated water to keep parks green.

Green – which means saving resources by smart planning – is often glossed over when it comes to details needed to make it work effectively.

Her are just a few examples of areas where such a commission could be effective:

Landscaping
•Requiring at least 50 percent of front yards in new developments to employ xeriscaping to reduce water consumption. Similar requirements could also be put in place for landscape maintenance districts with the added condition that water shrubs with sprinklers would no longer be acceptable but instead would require bubblers for deep root watering to reduce overall water consumption.

•Requiring moisture sensors in new developments for grass, installing purple pipe in the streets and in front yards to use recycled sewer water, and aggressive monitoring of street tree planting to make sure they are properly watered and grow to their full potential to help reduce cooling costs in the summer heat.

Transportation
•Overseeing implementation of the existing separated bike path master plan plus “micro” updating it on an ongoing basis keep up with development such as making sure there is an extension to the Big League Dreams sport complex and Stadium Retail Center.

•Separated bike paths should also be required at along major interior access points to larger retail complexes.

•Making sure there are bus turnouts put in place for future use, examining drive-up window operations to make sure they aren’t counterproductive in terms of energy consumption, and laying out developments so they are more pedestrian friendly.

•Exploring the placement of plug-in meters for charging electric cars at strategic locations throughout the city.

Parks and greenbelts
•Going 100 percent to solar security lighting to reduce the need to run underground conduit but it also has long-term cost savings.

•Requiring green belts in larger projects in exchange for narrower streets to allow the developer to have a wash in terms of costs.

Homes & other construction
•Explore establishing orientation requirements for windows and such to maximize natural cooling and heating from prevailing breezes as well as natural lighting.

•Work with developers to devise an analysis at the planning stage for placing solar photovoltaic panels on top of large big boxes such as Target has done.

•Revisiting the lot coverage requirement and educate people as to why non-pervious material is limited to a set amount and to prohibit any alterations that adds concrete which in turn increase run-off as well as heat issues  in the summer. Alternatives, instead, should be offered including gravel or checkerboard heavyweight pavers with drought-resistant low growing grasses in between.

Why, you might ask, can’t staff simply pursue a greener Manteca on their own?

It isn’t that easy. First of all, green needs to be high profile with the blessing of elected leaders and not an afterthought. Municipalities are notorious for lack of follow through.

There needs to be a think tank that could explore ways to make things that are more effective in terms of land use – whether it is condos above retail in the central district or transit villages clustered on the edge of downtown around the proposed transit station or at other locations.

Finding ways to put more people in less space and making it work quite well for the people living there is about as “green” as you can get. It reduces land consumption and reduces long-term costs by putting more people per mile of streets, sewer and water lines.

With all due respect for the current regime at the Civic Center, there is a checkered history of good ideas going to the wayside as people– even civil servants – get into comfort zones and are afraid to be innovative.

A Green Commission – at the every least – would shine a spotlight on the conservation of resources and reducing vehicle trips a mantra Manteca can strive to live by.
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